While PC music stalwart Hannah Diamond was working on her second album, Perfect Picture, with producer and pal David Gamson, the pair had one goal: to make the perfect pop song.
“We unanimously agreed that the amazing pop songs are ones that really depict the artist in their truest form,” Diamond says, Zooming in from her studio in Hackney Wick, East London, smiling and pink-haired. “So, throughout the whole album, we were trying to distil myself into a song, I guess, which meant it became this kind of multi-layered self-portrait.”
Indeed, there’s an abundance of introspection on Perfect Picture, which is full of bubblegum pink, sugary sweet songs that never feel contrived. “Everytime the lights hit you /A photograph /Is never true to life /Sometimes it’s hard /To live up to the perfect lie,” Diamond sings on the album’s title track via subtly manipulated vocals.
Then on feel-good anthem Affirmations: “I’ve got five things written on my wall /I need to remember them all /I don’t have to be somebody else /The best version of me is myself”. It’s compelling to see Diamond come to these poignant conclusions, given that she’s held the title of Britain’s favourite internet princess for the best part of 10 years. Now, in many ways, she’s more concerned with reality.
“This project is all the things I’ve been thinking about for the last decade. It’s a culmination of ideas and things I’ve wanted to express,” Diamond continues. “I feel like I’ve really completed that cycle in its entirety which is really exciting.” Picture Perfect is the follow-up to her debut album Reflections (2019). But Diamond has been a musical pioneer since 2013, the year she started releasing on A.G. Cook’s generation-defining PC Music label, which is closing up shop as of 2023. (“I do feel sad about that, but I’m also super excited. I’m just so proud of everything we’ve achieved,” she says.)
Diamond recalls her unbridled, child-like debut single Pink and Blue as one of her career-defining moments. “I think that actually changed my trajectory from being a visual artist to discovering I could make music that was going to be really fulfilling for me,” she says. “Until I released that track, I didn’t think that was viable for me.”
Over the years, Diamond’s image has become defined by futurism, glossiness and unabashed girliness. Perfect Picture is very much a continuation of that aesthetic. “I honestly think the world wasn’t ready for that cute personality and world I was creating when I first started out,” she says, laughing. “It was all about authenticity in music and gritty film photos, whereas I wanted to present myself in a way that reflected me in this hyperreal, pop way.
“At the time, I felt really misunderstood, so I’m excited that people are now more open to receiving this kind of thing.”
It’s always been Hannah Diamond’s world – we’re just living in it.
10% What kind of emotions and experiences influence your work?
Sometimes it’s things like heartbreak and big emotions. More recently, especially with this album, I was more inspired by things I’ve been reading about, like stereotypical ideas of girlishness and why I feel so connected to that. Why is it such a large part of my identity? Also feelings of perfectionism, like why I strive so hard and why that means to me. It’s very self-reflective. Why am I leaning towards airbrushed-level art, what’s my fascination with that? I think this album is really all about me digging into all of those things.
20% Do you feel any closer to answering those big questions about yourself?
I’ve learned a hell of a lot about myself by making this album. I’ve been going down rabbit holes – I’ve been reading this book called Girlhood and the Plastic Image, about how the idea of plasticity has been applied to girls over the years and what that means. It’s helped me reflect and inspired even more stuff.
30% Why are you so fascinated with girlhood?
How abstract it is and how a lot of the things we associate with girlhood or girliness actually have nothing to do with gender roles whatsoever. It’s fully aestheticised and I’m just like why? Why is pink associated with girls? Why is it that now I have pink hair, when I walk down the street, men feel like they want to shout “Hey Pinky!” at me? What is it about the colour pink that holds so much power and controversy?
40% If an alien dropped down from the sky and asked you to describe Perfect Picture to them, what would you say?
You know, I think they might just get it.
50% If you were cooking something to impress someone, what would you make?
Probably a cake. I love making butterfly cakes, the ones where you cut a little hole in the top and put the icing in and then dust it. They’re so cute! I really like making buttercream, too.
60% What’s a bad habit you wish you could kick?
One would be not giving up on things when I start them. Like, I’ll do pilates for two weeks and then completely forget about it, or start making really healthy breakfasts and then just stop. I really wish I could stop doing that.
70% What’s a piece of advice that changed your life?
There’s two. One was from my manager, who always tells me never to give up, even when things feel really hopeless. When I put out my song Affirmations, I had really low self-esteem. So I started writing nice things about myself and sticking them up on the wall in my room. One of those things was something SOPHIE said to me: how she was always amazed at how well I know myself, more so than anyone she’s ever met, and basically to never doubt that because I’m more than good enough. That’s been on my wall ever since she said it to me, and obviously now it means even more because she isn’t here to remind me.
80% Love, like, hate?
I love Reggie, my dog. He’s a long-haired sausage dog, he’s so cool and stupid and silly. I like those Marmite pinwheels from Marks & Spencer. I hate cow’s milk – I have an aversion to that, actually. A really strong one.
90% What’s the most memorable DM you’ve received?
I really loved it when ILoveMakonnen and Lil Peep hit me up on Instagram. They sent me videos of themselves literally crying to my song High and it was so cute. They just loved it so much. They were making an album and I think they were gonna call it Hannah Diamond at one point, which is so funny.
100% What can artists do to help save the world?
Inspiring people is the main thing – to make a change, or to think that they could be anything they wanted to be if they put their mind to it. Spreading messages of love and light, you know?